On Leadership
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Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Andrea Useem
On Leadership producer

Andrea Useem

Andrea Useem is the producer of On Leadership.

Video Transcript: Mandalay CEO Peter Guber on Leadership

Peter Guber, CEO and Chair of Mandalay Entertainment Group, answered questions for On Leadership after he spoke at the 2009 Wharton Leadership Conference.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Why Story Is the "Secret Sauce"

What movie taught you the most about leadership?

Movies taught me a lot about leadership, but the one that really taught me the most about leadership was Lawrence of Arabia. Here was Lawrence, walking through the desert. He was thinking: How did he possibly have the capability to organize the disparate tribes of Arabs to fight the Turks, when they fought each other more than they fought the Turks? What did he need to do?

And he kept thinking and thinking and thinking, and he finally came up with one word: Aqaba. If he could get these disparate tribes to believe that they could do the impossible -- cross the Nafud desert and attack the Turks from the rear, which the Turks believed was not possible; they had their guns in a hardened emplacement facing the ocean -- if he could get them to do the impossible, this one small piece of impossible, they could believe that anything's possible, and then uniting them was possible.

What does story-telling have to do with leadership?

Leadership is story. It is the ability to narrate story, the ability to present information that is otherwise not resonant and not memorable and not actionable in a form that makes it resonant, memorable and actionable. What you're looking at is a methodology that's as old as us, that held our tribe together thousands of years ago, when we weren't as fast as a lion or as big as a rhinoceros or strong as an elephant. So we needed an organizing principle. Social language and interaction allows us to develop tactics and strategy to climb to the top of the food chain. And that was story.

You wouldn't have remembered all of the facts unless they were told in an emotional way, unless the shaman of that tribe, in front of the campfire, rendered an experience to the tribe members so they'd understand the rules, beliefs and values of the tribe.

And that's the same in a company. That's the same with a product and shareholders and boards of directors. The idea is: Narrative is the secret sauce for delivering audience action and making them active.

What experience best prepared you for leadership?

Failure. Failure provided me with an unbelievable lesson. You don't understand, I've had so many flops. I've had flops. I had a movie that I made, Bonfire of the Vanities, and people even tried to walk out when it was showing on planes.

The journey and the process is engaged so much by recognizing that when something doesn't work you have a philosophy of asking the question, "Why? How can I make it better the next time?" And believing that in the future you will do it better and different.

Which celebrities have become true leaders?

I've made films with two people I respect enormously because I see coherence between their feet, heart, tongue and wallet. George Clooney: This is a person who really cares about people and puts his life on the line, and time on the line, and energy on the line to make a difference in the world. And he does it with complete sensitivity, complete sincerity and with a sense of flair, without putting a light on himself.

The other person is Angelina Jolie. I made Beyond Borders with Angelina Jolie. I saw her, first hand, really really really care for what she's doing and really believe in what she's doing. Now the fact that she's gorgeous and a beautiful actress and can do Mr. and Mrs. Smith or any of the big hit pictures -- that doesn't take away from her own beliefs and her value proposition. She puts her time, her money, her reputation on the line to believe in these -- you can call them causes -- but these life-driving missions that truly make a difference.

By Andrea Useem

 |  June 24, 2009; 9:12 PM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please report offensive comments below.

I checked this area out for the first time and it will be my last. Very lightweight treatment of what is normally a thought-provoking subject. ps) I'm sure Mr. Clooney and Ms. Jolie are very nice people who care deeply about their causes, but I don't see anything about either celeb that says "leader".

Posted by: novaescapee | June 26, 2009 9:02 AM
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